Turkey salutes its first jazz department
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 4/3/2010 12:00:00 AM | İZGİ GÜNGÖR
The establishment of a jazz department will fill a big gap in this field, says Emre Kartari, founder of the department at Hacettepe University
Turkey’s first jazz department has been established at Hacettepe University in Ankara with an enthusiastic high-profile backing from the homeland of jazz, the United States.
“The introduction of jazz education, an American classical music, into Turkey’s most prestigious conservatory as a specialized field is truly very important event,” Emre Kartari, founder of the department, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
“There has been a growing interest in jazz in Turkey but despite the interest, there was no jazz education within the scope of university. The establishment of the department is thus a great step and promising start. It will fill a big gap in this field.”
The department was established within the university’s Ankara State Conservatory and is scheduled to recruit its first jazz students in October. The key supporter of the project is the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which helped the university bring scholars from Fulbright, a U.S. alumni membership organization that promotes international educational and cultural exchange.
The opening ceremony of the department, which will be the first of its kind in Turkey dedicated to the study of jazz, was held Thursday with the participation of three members from the U.S. Congress.
Considering the move a legacy of the late Ahmet Ertegün, founder of Atlantic Records and credited with a signigicant role in promoting African American music, especially jazz, in the U.S.; participants of the event likewise paid tribute to his contributions to jazz music.
They also expressed their strong belief that jazz, which once played a crucial role in combining different cultures will now serve to further development of relations between the United States and Turkey.
“Jazz is multicultural and one of the best instruments to express human feelings. It is a wonderful achievement that a Turkish university has a department about American music. Turkey and the U.S. will thus exchange their musicians and knowledge through jazz,” said history professor Maurice Jackson.
[HH] Department sign of musical progress
For Kartari the founding of a jazz department is a promising indicator for the progress Turkey has achieved in its approach toward to jazz within last quarter century as 30 years ago such an idea wouldn’t probably be so welcomed or applauded by the university administrations.
“In order to ensure achievement in music, jazz education is vital in university atmosphere. There are many talented jazz students or those who want to learn jazz in Turkey but there are no jazz scholars, which is a great loss for the country,” Kartari said.
“The department has already received a great amount of interest from students both in Turkey and the world. I have been receiving many e-mails from them,” said Kartari who spent 24 years in the United States for engaging in jazz.
The department, which will offer five-year university educations including one year of preparatory classes, will receive 10 students in its first year but the number will increase. The unit’s first Fulbright scholar will be George "Skip" Gailes, co-founder of the jazz department at the Virginia Commonwealth University.
[HH] Art overcomes political hurdles
The establishment of the department was also marked by the involvement of three members of the U.S. Congress in the opening ceremony, a gesture that coincided with the ongoing heated discussions on the U.S. congressional committee’s Armenian genocide resolution.
“I actually have great confidence that both in the leadership in Turkey and the leadership in the United States, they will, as friends, get over these temporary hurdles and continue what has been their long term productive and respectful relationship.” Donna F. Edwards, African American Congresswoman of Maryland, told the Daily News.
“It is really important to establish relationships among people through such projects no matter they are educational or artistic or musical. They really help us to have much better understanding of each other irrespective of the politics.”
She thinks looking at the history of black musicians in jazz and combining them with studies here in Turkey will provide a special connection between the two countries.
“When you connect cultures of countries you connect research, education, music, science and history, which I think is the best sort of diplomacy,” Edwards said.
G. Lincoln McCurdy, president of Turkish Coalition of America, which sponsored the congressional delegation’s trip to Turkey, said the move will bring Turkish people and American people closer.
“Unfortunately this genocide resolution created some difficulties but the relationship between the Turkish people and American people is far greater than that. We want to diversify the relations. Music reminds us that we have more in common than our differences.”